by B. N. Sullivan
A Tupolev TU-154M aircraft operated by Iranian carrier Taban Air was involved in a dramatic runway accident earlier today at Mashad, Iran. The aircraft broke up and caught fire shortly after landing on runway 31R at Mashad International Airport. There were no fatalities reported among the 13 crew and 157 passengers on board, although news media are reporting that more than 40 people were hospitalized as a result of the accident.
The aircraft (registration RA-85787), operating as flight HH-6347, was arriving at Mashad from Isfahan at the time of the accident. The flight had originated the night before at Abadan, on the coast of Iran, bound for Mashad. Due to poor weather at Mashad, the aircraft diverted to Isfahan; early this morning it resumed its journey to Mashad, its scheduled destination.
Landing at Mashad in poor visibility, the aircraft may have struck its tail on the runway. News reports also suggest that the aircraft then left the runway, and during the runway excursion its landing gear collapsed and both wings separated from the fuselage. Photos from the accident scene show that the tail section of the aircraft had burned, and both the vertical and horizontal stabilizers are missing.